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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In praise of our volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on FEDERATION COMMANDER. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Andy Palmer for Prime Directive d20, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Mike Filsinger for STAR FLEET BATTLES.

Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Jeff Laikind in charge of the overall game system and the Ship Information Tables, or without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) keeping the scenarios updated and coherent.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Scott Tenhoff, and Chris Fant (the F&E staff); Jean Sexton (Director of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg (Galactic Conquest Campaign); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Roleplaying Scene to Movie Scene!

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Sometimes a role playing game can result in a scene where at least the participants can imagine that it needs to be shot for a movie.

One example we had occurred in a game of "En Garde". A situation came up which had to be resolved with sword play. One of the individuals was a huge ox of a man who, despite being a huge ox of a man, was a dragoon (by the way, he was also smart like an ox). The other was lithe and relatively small man who happened to be from an infantry regiment.

The smaller man was the senior in rank, so he got to choose weapons and of course chose rapiers, the weapon he was familiar with (and frankly the one best suited to his build and constitution in the game system). The Ox had no skill in rapiers (he was a dragoon, he used sabers and had invested all of his sword skills in that weapon).

The opening rounds of the duel as played out in the system saw the great ox making a series of futile slashing and cut maneuvers with his rapier, as his opponent deftly side stepped them and reached in to administer a cut here and a cut there. These many cuts were not individually devastating to the ox, but they were slowly wearing him down.

While he had not been touched, the opponent noted that it was taking a lot of hits to wear down the ox, and decided on a change of tactic, that being to deliver a "kick". This one blow did more damage to the ox than all of the previous cuts combined. Impressed with this, the opponent decided to repeat the maneuver.

The stage is now set. Picture the fight scene with the two men maneuvering, the opponent side stepping the Ox's futile swings while reaching past them to administer cut after cut. Suddenly, the opponent steps inside the Ox's guard and administers a kick where it really matters, promptly jumping back from any possible retaliation. The ox, reacts to blow by doubling up on himself, but does not go down (that sheer strength and constitution). The opponent again jumps in, preparing to deliver a second kick. The Ox's thought processes get past the sheer fact of the pain he is in and he realizes he is defenseless in his current posture. Still bent over he suddenly raises and extends his right arm in an effort to fend off his opponent.

In mid leap the opponent impales himself on the Ox's suddenly extended rapier. The Ox being so strong is still doubled over holding his sword out, not aware that his sword is the only thing holding the opponent up . . . as the opponent suddenly loses his grip on his sword, and consciousness, and his comrades who were cheering him on suddenly lose voice, while the Ox's comrades, despairing at certain defeat, suddenly raise cheers of victory for the brilliant display of swordsmanship.

In game terms, sword fighting was done by recording a certain number of "rest" maneuvers between each actual "action" maneuver. Some "action" maneuvers required more "rests" than others before you could perform them, and the more "damaged" you were the more "rests" you had to have before you could do an "action". In this particular case, it just happened that the Ox had programmed a "thrust", and the "thrust", partly as a result of delay "rests" imposed by the previous damage he had sustained, just happened to come up at exactly the same point where the opponent had initiated his second "close" to get into position to "kick". A "Thrust" against a "Close" could be expected to be a bad thing (for the person closing), it also happened to be the combination best set to optimize the sheer strength of the Ox. The opponent literally went from no damage to one damage point short of being killed outright (had he had more strength and constitution, he might have still been able to win the fight if he avoided any more "close" maneuvers).

It was a scene worthy to be included in a movie set in the Milieu of the Three Musketeers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why Entertainment is Boring

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the consistent things about the entertainment media that I find annoying is the predictability. Currently (and for some time now) the entertainment media has been fixated on "people with money (other than entertainers like ourselves) are bad/evil/uncaring/cowards while poor people are honest and brave". People in between are some of both, but most often ignorant and mislead.

An example is the continuing plot line you run across in the new "Dr Who" series. Courage is not found in the upper classes, only venality, pride, cowardice, treachery, or whatever bad trait it is found needful to express (some might express some other emotion, but if so they are quickly killed off before they can do so). The lower classes are always brave and self-sacrificing for the greater good, so long as they have a leader, i.e., The Doctor.

I would think they could do better if when they set their scripts up they simply threw dice or spun a wheel to determine which character is going to "rise to the occasion". That way there would at least be some "suspense", some "mystery" about what the characters are going to be.

But this applies across a lot of shows.

I just think it would be better if courage and self-sacrifice is not shown as only the purview of one class, while evil/badness is the purview of the other class. Humans do not act that way.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. We are developing a line of non-game products (calendars, paperback books, ship books, plus Cafe Press). We have an Amazon store (not to make money so much as to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers), and the MySpace page exists for that reason as well. We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Teach People to Play, Do Not Feed Your Ego

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Teaching people to play games is something of an art. In my experience, you need to keep your own personality and needs out of it. One of the gamers I knew had a habit of teaching people to play games on the basis of his owning the copy of the game, and you not. He would set up a game, and defeat you soundly. Then set it up to play again changing sides. Only now he would reveal rules that you did not know, and you would again be beaten soundly as everything you learned about the capabilities of the two sides was no longer valid.

Example, Izyum Salient. First time you play it, you are the Germans, and the Soviet defenses are very powerful and you are just barely able to force a gap before the Soviets counter attack. Next time you play it, he is the Germans, and here are the special first turn German Surprise Attack Rules. Next time you play it, you are the Germans, you know you get to use the German Surprise Attack Rules . . . but here are the rules for the Soviet Special First Turn Defense in Depth.

By the time you have learned all the rules and are on an equal footing . . . well he does not want to play that game any more, here is this new game he wants to play.

He won a lot, but after a while people did not want to play him.

It had other effects.

I actually got into SFB late because of this. He introduced me to the game back in 1979 (at Fort Benning), and his method of teaching it left such a sour taste that in 1985 when the game was announced as the game to be played that weekend by the local group (at Fort Campbell) I at first said no and wanted to play something else, anything else.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Patterns of Thought

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the teachers (I knew this teacher, but never had a class under him) in my High School liked to run little play-acting scenarios to help his students understand the right way to do things. This of course depended on both sides acting in accord with the script for the situation.

One of these scenarios used "Star Trek". The Klingons were approaching the border, and the Federation obviously should do all it could to avoid war. So the Federation met the Klingons at the border, and decided to demonstrate that they did not want to use force by backing up. Thus the Klingons would be in range of the Federation guns, and would stop before they actually crossed the border. The Federation's threat of force if the Klingons crossed the border would avoid having the situation escalate, and by backing up the Federation would reach a point where its guns would only affect the Klingons if they crossed the border, thus demonstrating that the Federation would defend its territory. The Klingons, of course, would realize that the Federation was not impinging on Klingon territory and would accept the invitation to talk.

That was the script, of course.

The reality was that the students running the Klingons realized that there was a big advantage in shooting first.

It was a bad day for the Federation, and a bad day for teaching correct patterns of thought. The teacher could explain to the students that what the Klingons SHOULD have done was accept the Federation offer to talk, but what the students saw was that the Klingons won by use of force because the Federation failed to draw a line and say "if you come into range, we will fire", thereby leaving themselves completely open to the attack.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:

As the graphics (on the website and in the products) continue to improve here at ADB, Inc., I am learning about new things every day. It seems that I drive SVC crazy because I do my list of things to do before he is ready to give me another list, so your help in finding things for me to do would be appreciated.

We have merged the two websites. The combined site now has a new front page, site map, and index, making it a lot harder to use. You are welcome to comment on my changes, but more importantly, please suggest changes, and check the changes I make.

Here is my e-mail: graphics@StarFleetGames.com or you can comment on either forum.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Plan is Perfect!

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the games I played quite a bit growing up was Avalon Hill's Stalingrad. While named after the city on the Volga, the game presented the entire Russian front from the Black sea to about half way up the length of Finland, and from Poland to just a little past the city in question. All unit counters represented Corps, with a game turn being about a half month (if I recall correctly) and the game going from the German invasion until the start of 1943.

I wound up playing the Soviets quite often as most players wanted to play the Axis, and developed a plan of action that I used time and again.

The key point to my plan was that Finland was "isolated" from the rest of the Axis front, and I wanted to "shorten my line" so that I could concentrate more forces against the main Axis offensive. So when I set up the Soviet defenses, I would "rob Peter" by taking forces away from the main line of resistance to "pay Paul", massing those forces opposite Finland. I would thus amass in front of the Finish frontier the three most powerful armies that the Soviet Union could muster with its available mix of counters. When the Axis launched its offensive, I would respond by launching my own into Finland. We were playing a game, so everything was known quantities and I knew exactly what the Finns were capable of, and exactly what the Soviet forces were capable of, the only thing not predictable was the die rolls. But the die rolls in Finland did not matter, as the force was overwhelming versus what the Axis could have in Finland.

In a few short turns, Finland would be overrun. While this was happening the rest of the Soviet forces would be conducting a carefully staged fighting retreat. As they fell back, the front would become wider, spreading them thinner and making it easier for the Axis to mass for a breakthrough. Ah, but the plan! With Finland gone, I would be free to move my three best armies out, not needing to leave any troops to defend the Finnish border, and mass them to counter the Axis offensive.

The plan worked. It was perfect. It worked time and time again.

Except that it failed that one time.

The problem was that while I could set up the Finnish campaign such that I pretty much excluded any chance of bad die rolls affecting it, I could not control the die rolls elsewhere. This one time, the Axis rolled very well for their initial offensives out of Poland and Romania. That might not have been disastrous, but the only offensive action I got to take at that time was in Finland, and I was focused there and not paying enough attention to the rest of the front.

In all likelihood, I could have probably saved the game if I had abandoned my Finnish offensive and gone over completely to the defensive.

But the Plan was perfect. The Plan could not fail. I would destroy Finland and there would be time to redeploy the offensive armies to stop the Axis before they took Leningrad and Moscow. The Plan always worked.

Except it did not.

The lesson is not to be so wrapped up in your ingenious plan that you do not notice that something has gone wrong. And be ready to dump the whole plan if you have to, no matter how committed you were to it.

The problem with plans is always going to be that the other side will not necessarily read their copy and know they are supposed to lose.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

This weekend I watched the Sci Fi Saturday film "Warbirds". There are a lot of things I could say about this film, sadly very few of them are positive. I will give fairly high marks for the computer animation of the "dragons", but nothing else about this film rates a single positive comment.

To say that there was no one with any effective knowledge of the weapons and equipment anywhere near this production would be to suggest that anyone in this production cared. Any effort to that end would have, apparently, detracted from the underlying "message" of the film.

There may have been a good film, somewhere, in this movie, but they kept it well hidden among the drek and message.

Even the fairly good computer generation of the "dragons" was wasted because that apparently used all of the "effects" budget. The M1 carbines that were used were not adapted to firing blanks, so rather than firing a shot every time the trigger was pulled, the actor had to pull the bolt back and release it after each shot so that he could fire another. A lot of scenes (involving the .45 pistols) were apparently done on the basis of the actor firing one "dramatic shot" in the scene, so the actor was only given one cartridge. This gave quite a few instances of an actor firing one shot with his .45 and having the slide lock back, i.e., the weapon was empty after firing that one shot.

Beyond that, there were so many things that were just "wrong" about the whole set up it was ridiculous. Bombers on "ferry flights" (that is to say the bomber is being flown someplace to be handed over to an active flight crew) are not loaded down with ammunition. Particularly if there are no "gunners" aboard the bomber (there is no point in having the weight of all those bullets if there is no one to work the guns). The Nuclear Weapons that were used on Japan were both far larger than the "bomb" shown in the plane's "bomb bay", and no one took off with an active nuclear weapon. (The bombs dropped on Japan were "armed in flight", i.e., after the plane had departed the base.) No one would arm a nuclear bomb prior to its being dispatched on its mission. While the bomber might have been ferrying a bomb, it would not have been capable of detonating as shown in the film.

And those only scrape the surface of things that were just wrong. There was also a great deal of whitewashing of Imperial Japan in this film.

This is not a film I will ever watch again and I regret having watched it at all.

Monday, April 21, 2008



Playing FEDERATION COMMANDER by Email is an alternative to playing Face-to-Face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.

The basic gist of the FEDERATION COMMANDER Play-by-Email (PBEM) system is that you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via Email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "Sitrep" (Situation Report) to the players via Email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.

Every FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game of FEDERATION COMMANDER. Moderating a FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game is also an excellent way to learn more about the FEDERATION COMMANDER rules.

While there are some disadvantages to PBEM (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).

For more information about playing FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM, please visit the Play-by-Email section of ADB, Inc.'s website at www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Our website is vast and full of fun, useful, and interesting documents, charts, play aids, illustrations, and other things. Most of the best stuff is found at: http://starfleetgames.com/playerresources.shtml which has lists of resources and links to other lists of resources. Take a look down the list and see if there are documents you always wanted and could never find or documents which you never knew you were looking for.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

SVC and Leanna on the way to GAMA

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC and Leanna are on their way to the annual Game Manufacturers Association Convention. They called in from the far side of Arizona to note. So far, so good. They left here a little after 1300 (CST) yesterday, and overnighted on the far side of New Mexico after stopping to see some dinosaur displays.

SVC and Leanna make this trip almost every year, and use it as something of a vacation in addition to business. It is almost the only vacation time they have (outside of the less fun vacation time imposed by being sick).

I managed to come down with something just before they departed. Not sure what as it seems to have multiple components. Cough, running nose, sneezes, sore muscles, headache. Makes it hard to concentrate. Makes it hard to sleep too. I have had it for a few days now, but it is not as bad today as when I first had it, but it is beginning to seem like it intends to hang around for a while longer.

Friday, April 18, 2008

How to Find Opponents

STEVE COLE WRITES: Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four wargamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).

These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, and works much better, and you have a lot of ways to do it. For best results, do all of them.

You can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-in's every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out of somebody near you has signed in.

You can go to the forum and find the area where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations and let people know you're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.)

Feel free to go to your local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of FEDERATION COMMANDER (or any of our games) and "grown your own" opponents. If anybody already plays the game you demo, they'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.

Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts.

The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to our Legacy site and look for the button that says Player Resources. Under that menu is a link for Starlist. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some five thousand players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than your local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.

The original website has a bulletin board system and the 8th item on the main menu is "seeking opponents". You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.

Many of those on Starlist and StarFleetGames.com/discus will be players of STAR FLEET BATTLES, but most of those can be convinced to play FEDERATION COMMANDER. Indeed, over half of the names on Starlist are people who quit playing STAR FLEET BATTLES for lack of opponents (or because SFB was too complex for them or their opponents) and most of those are ready recruits for the faster cleaner FEDERATION COMMANDER game system.

With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see the links list on our site).

If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town, or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a star trek club in your home town, show them FEDERATION COMMANDER or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their Email address and left these in the windows of their cards who got Emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.

You can go always go to SFB Online and play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $4 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.

There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

While I was stationed at Fort Campbell, the gaming group I was part of decided to play a "Cthulu" campaign. The various characters met, got acquainted in early adventures and the campaign proceeded deeper into the milieu.

At one point in the campaign, the characters were divided into two groups. One group went to Transylvania to investigate going's on there, while the other went to Egypt. The survivors (yes, it was a Cthulu campaign, in point of fact we actually had one player and his character go completely over to the other side) were reunited on a passenger ship heading back to the states.

But something strange happened.

One of the characters had "Danger Sense", which would alert him that he was in danger, but was never specific about what the danger was. Now, suddenly, whenever he was near Allen Jones his danger sense would go off. And he could not figure out why.

In game terms, when the two groups were brought back together, the player running Allen Jones saw the other character, and asked to speak to the Campaign Master privately, and when the two came back, he sat down and the Campaign Master simply told the other player his character's danger sense went off when ever he was around Allen Jones. It was incumbent upon him to figure out why.

The Campaign continued through various other adventures. Allen Jones was, within the group, the only character everyone else trusted. Except the guy with Danger Sense, who became increasingly anxious. But since he did not know why, all he could do was tell other characters that something was not right about Jones. But Jones was the one guy everyone else trusted.

Things got really worse because the guy running Jones had a rather warped sense of humor. One day, he and the other player were alone in a car driving someplace (real world), and he explained why the the character's danger sense was going off.

Jones, you see, was no longer Jones. While he had been in Transylvania the villain that that group thought they had killed had actually traded places with Allen Jones, i.e., his spirit and soul now possessed Allen Jones' body, and Allen Jones' spirit and soul had been destroyed with his (the villain's) old body. And Jones was the one character that everyone else trusted, and he was going to kill all the other members of the party, one by one, and the last thing they would each see would be the smiling face of the one person they all trusted.

You can probably imagine what effect that had on that player's character in subsequent adventures. He had to play the character as if he did not know what he, the player, did know. He could not warn the others of exactly what was wrong, and yet he knew.

Eventually his paranoia spread to other members of the group, but even though they were paranoid, knew something was wrong, no one knew just what, and everyone (except the character with danger sense) still trusted Allen Jones.

The paranoia levels finally started to derail the campaign, and the Campaign Master had to stop it, sit everyone down, and tell everyone exactly what was going on.

The character with Danger Sense had committed (albeit in the line of duty trying to stop Cthulu) major crimes while in Egypt, and was wanted by the law on international warrants. Allen Jones was a law officer and would have arrested the character with danger sense and turned him in if he became aware of the crimes. Thus the danger sense was triggering to not talk with Allen Jones about things in Egypt.

However, my little joke (yes, I was Allen Jones) had almost destroyed the campaign. And, yes, while we were in Transylvania the main villain was intended to "trade places" with Allen Jones, the problem was that Allen Jones had become aware of it, and caught the Campaign Master off guard by emptying a 50-round .45 caliber drum magazine of a Thompson sub-machinegun into "the baron" rather than "confronting" him.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


STEVE COLE REPORTS; The eight-foot fence around my back yard has three feet of sheet metal around the top of it, mounted on custom-made brackets. This is to keep Isis and Ramses home when they use the cat door to enjoy the back yard. I'm all for fresh air and exercise (for the Bengal Cats anyway) but I don't want them fighting other cats, hit by cars, stolen by evil people, or anything else.

The wind in this part of Texas is pretty bad. Twenty miles an hour is regarded as a relatively calm day. Forty miles an hour isn't something anyone would mention in conversation. Fifty miles an hour is a stiff wind, but to actually come up in dinner table conversation, it has to hit sixty miles per hour, which it does at least once a
month. That much wind plays heck with everything, from the fence to the siding on the house. My fence stays up only because it has metal poles in concrete and bolted cross-bar stringers. The sheet metal at the top, however, takes a beating, and is often torn loose, or torn in half. That in turn creates problems with the Bengal Cats going walkabout.

Recently, a metal panel literally tore in half and I had to go reinforce it and screw the pieces back to the stronger frame. (When I get a whole weekend off, I'll need to replace the metal panel.) As I am old and fat and get no exercise, I cleverly hired a handyman to come and fix it, but due to the upcoming trade show, the wandering eyes of the Bengal Cats, and the weather report which showed only one calm day this week, it had to be done Monday, and the handyman failed to show up, which left me to do this by myself. In my younger years (ten years ago) it would have been easy. When I built the Bengal Barrier five years ago, it would have been doable. Now, it's bad, really bad.

First step was to get the drill so I could remove the boards holding the door of the storage building closed. (The door broke in a 70 mph wind two years ago and I have never had time to fix it. The handyman was supposed to do that after we fixed the fence.) Oops, problem number one. Drill battery had not been charged and was low on power, but it got the job done. (Lesson #1: the morning before a planned evening project, make sure the batteries are charging.) This let me get the ladder out of the shed. Next step was to cut the boards on the angle mounts to allow me to add a crossbar at the top. Oops, problem number two. Charger for power saw battery is not working. (See Lesson #1.) Must remember to look into this. Anyway, got the old cord-powered drill and up the ladder I go, into the face of a 30 mph wind. Standing too high on the ladder I have to reach over two feet to hold the saw backwards (forwards, it won't fit) and cut the boards. That puts a lot of torque and every time I hit the button to power the saw, the force of the blade rocked the ladder. No matter; it has to be done. Leanna braced the ladder and I got it done, then moved the ladder and cut the other one. Which sounds like one short sentence but was about 20 minutes of moving and climbing and finding something to hold onto in a steadily increasing wind.

Now, I have to put in the top rail (part of the original design five years ago, but never installed because I ran out of time). To do this, I have to drill holes in the rail for the screws, and the drill battery is dying fast. Got two holes drilled, drove in the screws, moved the ladder, and the drill died before it could drill the last two holes. After a 15-minute sit-down, I went after the old cord-powered drill which I got as a wedding present from my father 30 years ago. Being that old, it uses a "chuck key" which took half an hour to find. (Lesson #2, don't lose key parts.) Having found it, I drilled the holes, then swapped the drill bit for a screwdriver
bit. Now, I was on the inside of the fence, which meant that the ladder wasn't braced on anything (due to the overhang of the metal) and the ladder (and I) wobbled a lot. Since 30-year-old drills don't have speed-controls, every time I drove a screw down it would literally have enough force to knock over the ladder. Which was kind of dangerous considering that my wrists were about two inches from razor sharp sheet metal.

Next step was to take a nail and punch some holes in the sheet metal for screws. It's getting dark and the wind is now over 30mph and the razor-sharp torn metal (still fastened at the bottom) is flopping like a flag in the breeze). How do you do this? VERY carefully. I had three torn sections of sheet metal, each about 2x3 feet, and had to bend each one into place, punch holes, then drive screws through the holes into the newly-installed rails. I drove the last screw down (barely avoiding a serious fall when the torque tried to throw the ladder and me over) as the last rays of sunlight disappeared. I felt glad it was done, but the fence is still going to be a problem as every time we get a high wind, I lose another piece of sheet metal and have to (somehow) get it back into place without cutting myself. Makes me wish my transfer to duty in Iraq (which is much safer) had gone through.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Free stuff for FEDERATION COMMANDER players!

STEVE COLE WRITES: Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the FEDERATION COMMANDER game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). Go to www.StarFleetGames.com/fc and you will find a lot of stuff you can download. Some of those downloads include:

o The free First Missions packet (demo version of FEDERATION COMMANDER).

o Turn gauges and firing arcs for the tabletop rules.

o Sample Ship Cards.

o Wallpapers of game covers.

o Frequently asked questions.

o Information for retailers.

o The original theatrical trailer (ok, not that, but it WAS the original flyer handed out at trade shows).

o Notes from the game designer (Steve Cole) on what parts of the older game STAR FLEET BATTLES we decided to include in FEDERATION COMMANDER.

But that's just a start. If you join the Commander's Circle, which is free, you can download the monthly Communiqué which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dogs and People

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I grew up around both dogs and cats. I like both, although I have an attitude towards dogs that they must "work" for a living. By that I mean if I had a large enough yard and income to support having dogs, I would have dogs and cats, but the dogs would have the additional duty of "guard dog" (and I would hope that the cats would fulfill various rodent control duties . . . but they are cats).

Perhaps, growing up, that attitude came across to our dogs.

We seldom had fewer than two, rarely more than that also, but there was never a dog that was "mine". Never one that was my older brother's either. Did not matter that I petted them, took time to feed them, and played with them, they were not "mine". For whatever reason that I could not define, every dog we ever had growing up belonged to my younger brother. And this was their (the dogs') choice. Where ever my younger brother went, the dogs went with him. Not because he called them to, it was simply the way it was. For whatever reason, he was the one they were willing to lay down their lives to protect.

He was the one Charlie was bitten by the rattlesnake while protecting (imposing himself between my younger brother and the snake). Charlie did get the Vet in time to be saved.

He was the one that Sugar leaped from the canal bank to save from drowning. Sugar would have drowned with him as there was no way to get back on the bank, but she held him up until a boat could reach them.

He was the one they gathered around whenever strangers turned up (whether simply knocking at the door, or walking by on the street).

Whenever my younger brother went through the door to the outside world the whole time we were together (a period that ended when I began my service in the Army but covered virtually his entire life to that point) the dogs would immediately follow him. When he went to bed, they slept near him.

In my experience, my younger brother did not treat the dogs as well as I did. At best he gave them "tolerant neglect" in that he tolerated them being around him, but pretty much did not do anything for them.

For whatever reason, he had 100% of their affection and loyalty, and the rest of us (my parents, my brother, and myself) had to be content with just being accepted as "part of the pack".

My younger brother (he was 18 months younger than me) died about five years after I went away to the Army. The reasons for his death had everything to do with how he lived his life, and nothing to do with whether or not he was loved by dogs. I know in my heart that if were possible for any of the dogs that traveled through his life to lay down their own for his, they would have done so. Within the limited reasoning power that a dog's mind possesses, they would have counted themselves as lucky to be allowed such a boon.

I do not know, to this day, what power my younger brother had over dogs. I know that it was very, very real.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Duplicate Posts

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is the 13th of April, and seems to be the day that previous posting problems have been cleared up. There were problems posting blogs yesterday that extended into today, but the management has done their best to get things going again.

I have deleted some posts that wound up being duplicates, although I have noted them as such, and this post is replacing the original post (which would have been another duplicate of yesterday's post).

Not much else to say, I fear.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Graphics Director Matthew Cooper writes:

Have you ever heard of Cafe Press? Cafe Press is a website where you can open up a free online shop and promote products on your website. Cafe Press creates and sells products with designs provided by various companies. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and we have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, mousepads, etc.

See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our new I-heart-Klingons T-shirt!

If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on Cafe Press, let me know and I will set it up for you! Email me at: graphics@StarFleetGames.com


Due to problems posting, this was also a duplicate of the post for the 12th of April and it has been deleted.


Due to problems posting, this was a duplicate of the post for the 12th of April and it has been deleted.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Reserve

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Most gamers are aware of the concept of a reserve, but in game terms you usually do not treat reserves the way you would in real life. Most games make it pretty easy to just pull units from different parts of your fighting front and move them to where you need them. Very few games will reward you for holding units out of combat to be committed elsewhere when needed. This is because games often do not cover things like rest.

In real life, you need to have a reserve. You would like it to be as large as possible, and you would hope that it can be at a place that you can rotate your sub units to for a rest. This is not just a matter that the men can get a night's sleep, they have to be doing that on the fighting line, but it is case where they can get a night's sleep without worrying that an enemy raid will hit their part of the line. So they can get real sleep as opposed to a drowsy semi-alert sleep.

Sure, they are on standby to go into combat, but they are out of the more immediate combat zone for at least a little while. Rotating through the reserve job keeps everyone a little fresher and better able to handle the stress of the front line.

You must always have a plan to use your reserve, and you want to make sure the men on the reserve know what they may be called on to do (most often a hasty counter attack, but it could simply be to move up and reinforce a threatened position.

Battles are often won by the commitment of a reserve force.

They are also frequently lost by running out of reserves.

And that is the other aspect of the reserve.

While it is a tool a commander can use to fix a problem, he must not only be careful about where and when to use it, he must have a plan how to reconstitute his reserve once he does commit it. Even if the next reserve he has is just the Clerks, Cooks, and Mechanics, he has to be ready to call them into formation and readiness to deploy the moment he commits his previous reserve.

Always have a reserve, and always have a plan to create a new one if you have to commit your current reserve.

Wars are chaos, the unexpected and unanticipated happen, and the reserve is often what you use to solve the problem. Not creating a new one as quickly as you can simply means the next problem could be unresolvable and lead to disaster.

And, yes, sometimes all the reserve can do for you is provide the organized force that covers your retreat from a situation that has become something you cannot handle with the forces at your disposal.

Even so, always have a plan for how to create a new reserve. If you cannot create a new reserve, and have committed your existing reserve, you may have already lost the battle.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique. The newsletter has the latest information on release schedules and company news, as well as lots of other useful content. It also has links to the new Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules. The newsletter also has links to the most recent Star Fleet Alerts, the press releases that tell your local game store when to expect new products.

See the link at http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/April_2008/

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download FEDERATION COMMANDER wallpaper.

Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, and Romulan Attack are currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.


If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to write me at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and I will get it set up for you.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


This is Stephen V. Cole Posting:

I work 60+ hours a week, but it's never enough. More comes in than I can send back out. Some days, I get nothing done on new products because I'm just answering endless streams of Emails. Approve this, answer that, look up something else, evaluate another thing, on and on. Worse, sometimes I spend more time finding a lost Email than I would have spent answering it the day it came in. Things that could be resolved by just moving them to the file where they will eventually be used would save me time later. (Say I get an article for Captain's Log #37. If it actually put it into the Captain's Log #37 file the day it shows up, I don't have to hunt it down later, or worse, publish Captain's Log #37 without the article because I forgot I had it "somewhere" in the hard drive. Worst of all, if I don't answer something, I get eleven further Emails asking me when I'm going to answer it. Just a quick courtesy answer to all of those Emails takes an hour or two a week, every week.

I determined, as my New Year's Resolution 95 days ago, to end this. My theory is that if I had no backlog, or could at least better manage the backlog, I will be more efficient. I am eliminating the backlog in an attack that is two-fold.

First, following the infamous Lutwak theory of warfare, I need to stop things from getting worse. I must identify what is causing the problem and put a stop to it. What is causing the problem is: not dealing with Email when it comes in. Once an Email has been here for a few days without an answer, it gets lost (it scrolls off of the screen as later Emails arrive, and once out of sight, it's gone for good, or might as well be), which clutters up the computer (causing me to take more time to find things than it should), annoys those waiting for answers, and loses some good stuff that should be processed and published. The solution is to deal with things on the day they arrive. Read it, answer it, file it, and it's no longer a problem. Nice theory. The problem is that I need to be doing new products, and I just don't have the luxury to take a two-hour break from finishing Distant Kingdoms in order to review a fiction story somebody sent in. I'd be spending all of some days just on that day's Email. So, I use a triage system. I look at all of the day's Email. If it's junk that doesn't need an answer, I delete it. If it is something I can answer without breaking stride, I do so. The rest of it is left in the in box. So far, that's nothing different than the failed system that got me in this mess. So, the next step is to use some discipline. I give myself an amount of time each day (whatever I can afford to take from new products) and answer everything I can, from the easiest to the hardest, on the theory that if the same time will answer four easy things or a single hard thing, it's better to keep the pile of things to do small and get rid of the most Emails. (Hint: If you are working on some project and have 23 questions for me, ask them one or two at a time and you'll get on the fly answers over a week. Send them all at once and you are at the bottom of the stack and could wait for six weeks, or two years.) Anything else gets a note telling them that I got their Email and put it into the "One Day Grace" file and giving them a guess on when they will get an answer (so they won't bombard me with "when will you do it" Emails). The problem here is that the ODG file is out of sight and thus out of mind, and I take mental credit for "clearing the in box" when the 20% of Email that would consume 80% of my day if it could has never been answered, it was just sent to ODG. Thus, I saw my "ODG" file reach 70 Emails and be three or four weeks behind. The solution was to make doing some of the stuff in the "One Day Grace" part of my daily routine. So, I do five per day. I started with the easy ones and then started tackling some of the harder ones. I am, surprisingly, able to slowly catch up on ODG.

Some of this is training people how to get what they want from me in the least amount of my time. How to write clear questions is an art form, and I try to teach it. Some of this is just the mental discipline to force myself to keep up, even if it's like trying to sip water from a fire hose. But I no longer fear sending something to ODG, not when I know it's going to stay there no more than a week. I don't want to re-label it One Week's Grace since then I'd be comfortable dealing with it a month late. People have noticed the difference and are working with me, not asking me what happened to their item until several days later, and then only asking once a week.

The second prong of the spear is to eliminate the backlog of stuff that has built up. This is a multi-faceted operation, but basically, I try to do some of it every day. Every day I push the "most recent but never answered" Email back by one day, even if that's just putting it into ODG or the deeper "After Origins" folder. Every day, I do five from ODG. Every day, I try to leave my un-filed outgoing Email smaller than the day before. (If the "in box" is my "to do list", the "out box" is the "check to see if the assigned person ever did this list". By keeping the clutter out of this box, I can see what is there, and go through the ones I am waiting for answers to, hounding people to answer me or do their projects. (I cannot blame the guy doing an RPG book for me -- a book he hasn't finished in two years -- if I only remind him that he needs to finish it once every six months.) Every day, I clean up the "attachments received" file. Just throwing away the porn, advertising, and clutter that shows up every day makes it easier to find the stuff I do need to deal with. So every day, I file everything back to the "hard deck" (the point where I adopted my New Year's Resolution) and then push the hard deck back a few days, even if it means "put this submitted SSD into the submissions file" instead of actually dealing with it. When I started, the attachments file had over 4,000 items and I couldn't find anything. Now it's down to under 1,000 (just by deleting spam and obsolete items, such as photos of the sculpture-in-progress for miniature ships we put into production two years ago).

I don't know how long it will be before I have transferred everything in the in box and out box and attachment box to something else (trash or one of the pending files) but once that is done (six months?), the time spent sifting and filing can go into increasing the "pending" items actually dealt with, and eventually (a year or two?) I will have answered everything back to 1999.

Hope springs eternal.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Try Not to be the Slowest in the Group

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I was brought into role-playing, more or less kicking and screaming, through the auspices of a game called "Empire of the Petal Throne". While the other players in the group expressed a desire that I should join as a "magic-user", I dug in my heels and pretty much said I would only play if I could be a fighter. Once that was set up, I went on my first ever "dungeon delve".

Being a fighter, I went for full plate armor, no one else in the group had anything better than chain mail armor.

So we were marching through the dungeon when this hidden passage opened, out stepped an opposing warrior, who in one blow killed outright a non-player character we had brought along for extra 'firepower'. The killed character was just as tough as my character.

My immediate response was to ready myself for battle.

That had the effect of leaving me standing there all by myself, as every other member of the group turned tail and ran like all the demons of Hades were behind them.

Left unsupported (the opposing warrior was being reinforced by other warriors), I came to the rational conclusion that the only thing to do was run.

Did I mention I was wearing plate armor?

Pretty quickly I was falling further behind my friends, and the bad guys (who were also wearing chain mail) were catching up.

As it happened, I made it through a door where the rest of my group had stopped, and they then slammed the door shut and dropped a beam across it at the last second before the opposition reached it.

On my next dungeon adventure, I wore Chain Mail.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


I constantly see things on industry mailing lists and in my Email where people want advice on entering the game business. The best advice I have is my free book which you can find at www.starfleetgames.com/book as a nice multi-chapter PDF.

In one recent case, an individual wrote to say: "I just lost my job and have decided to be a game designer for a living. I need a stable income of $4,000 a month. How long would it take me to get there? Three months? Six?"

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry 28 years. (A few years I have made that much, barely, but not in the current market.) The sad fact is that except for the lucky three or four, game designers won't ever make that much. Worse, you probably cannot make a living as an independent game designer at all, since game publishing companies were (99% of the time) created to publish the owner's games because no other company would publish them.

In another case from some time ago (I'm going to blur some facts here so that nobody can tell who I'm talking about), a young game enthusiast decided to quit his day job and focus his full time efforts on game design and publishing. His wife said that she would allow this only if he "brought home" a paycheck of a defined amount each month. He had some money from an inheritance which was separate property and his wife allowed that he could use this. Well, he went through the nest egg, borrowed money from savings without telling his wife, maxed out the credit card he got for the business, and then got two more cards (those offers in the mail) without telling his wife and maxed them out. All the time (his company last 18 months and did a dozen products) he was "bringing home" the required paycheck. His company was making a profit beyond expenses, but not enough to cover the paycheck, but the paycheck continued because (a) his wife insisted and (b) he was sure he would start making more sales any time. One of the credit cards was a $5,000 cash advance spent on advertising (which produced few if any new sales). Every month, he wrote that paycheck but came up short elsewhere. He had established credit with the printers and with the companies that sold him advertising pages so he ended up deeply in debt to the printer and to advertising publishers. Worse, his first product (which sold well enough) ran out of print, but it was going to cost $20K to reprint it and the dwindling rate of sales (nowhere near as good as it had been 18 months earlier) would not support the debt load, but he "had" to reprint it to avoid looking like a company on the way out. Finally, with no more places to borrow money and creditors threatening legal action, he took the case to his wife for a home equity loan. She, of course, had no clue that his company was $40K in debt (for which he as personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

In another case (actually, there are four or five of these I have seen, all about the same), an enthusiastic game designer who knew nothing about the industry but was sure his game was the next big thing got a home equity loan, printed thousands of copies of his game, and THEN (and only then) asked other game companies how to contact stores and wholesalers to sell his game. He had no clue what size the market was (few games sell over a couple of thousand copies) or who the wholesalers were or what it would take to get them to buy (some now demand that you pay them $500 for advertising before they will carry your game) or even what the discount structure was (which meant that his cost per game was fairly close to the 40% of the retail price he had printed on the games). Moral of the story, learn as much as you can about the industry before you spend a dime getting into it. GO READ MY BOOK FIRST.

I see lots of gamers who think that running a retail store, and on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What to Write

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the hardest things about a blog is thinking of something to write about, and more importantly trying not to rehash things you have written about before. Some of the things you have written about before might be worth revisiting, particularly if some new aspect comes forth, but that is rarely the case. You wind up falling back on day to day things and events, but even at that you can sometimes be caught in the situation of something you think is common knowledge but others have not heard. Or you talk about something that you are pretty sure is boring but you ring someone's bell.

My life is not an exiting one. Most of the incidents in my past life that I consider worth a story or two I have already told (barring something triggering a memory to another incident).

Like most people I look at the world through my own eyes and my own experiences. I am rather willing to talk to people instead of standing mute because I like to have my brain active 'doing something' and talking is the fall back if I do not have a book or something else to read. I cannot even eat lunch without something to read (at home I am most likely to watch TV while I am eating, but when not at home I will usually read something).

I am often amazed at how little people around me seem to know. (Although to be fair I am certain someone with more of a science or math background would find me very ignorant.) I had no interest in watching "are you smarter than a fifth grader", but last night I stopped flipping channels for a bit, and was stunned at the questions that were being asked, and missed, by adults. (How could ANYONE think Marco Polo had explored the American East Coast, much less in the 1570s?, or not know that any given whole number can be expressed as a fraction, i.e., the number "1" can be expressed as 1/1, or 2/2, or 13/13, such that if you had to add one and 6/7ths the correct answer is 13/7?)

Well, the above is not much, but I guess it will have to do for the Blog of the Day.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Golden BB

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I do not believe I had ever heard the term "Golden BB" before the Mel Gibson Film "Air America", but in my gaming I had definitely become very, very familiar with the term and did not need it explained after I had heard it.

I have, in gaming, been the victim of "The Golden BB".

Long, long ago I played a lot of a game called "Richtofen's War", a game by Avalon Hill about World War I aerial combat. It was not a very good simulation of aerial combat, I must concede, but we played it quite a bit. We even had a campaign going for a while, with players divided between the two sides.

When I joined up, I volunteered for the Balloon Busting missions. Everyone else thought this was great (no one wanted to do them, and everyone was happy that there was a player who would just accept them as his "mission for the day". (Sometimes we flew multiple missions in a single day, and since most of the games were on weekends and not weekdays outside of vacations, it took a long time to play a lot of games.)

In any case, the thing everyone forgot (and no, I did not plan this) was that under the game system, a downed Observation Balloon still counted as an aerial kill. In a relatively small number of missions, I racked of ten downed observation balloons. In some cases I knocked out more than one on a mission, in some cases I aborted missions before knocking down a single balloon due to damage my fighter had sustained, and in some cases I had to fly a different mission because there were no Balloon busting missions that day, so it was not done in ten missions straight. However, I had become an "ace" (in fact, the "only" ace as no one else made ten kills before he was shot down and "killed"), with all the benefits the game awarded to such an individual, principally a die roll modifier when firing my guns.

The die roll modifier led to my fairly quickly downing ten enemy planes, making me a double ace, i.e., I now got to subtract two from my die rolls when firing my guns.

I hit triple ace in very few missions.

I honestly no longer remember where I was on the road to quadruple ace when disaster struck.

I was out on a counter photo-reconnaissance mission, i.e., shoot down or drive off the German photo-recon plane. I easily slipped past and evaded the German fighter that was escorting the recon plane and riddled it with a burst from guns, damaging it but not fatally (or even enough to make it abandon the mission). As I dove past the photographer got a burst in on my plane, a few "minor hits" . . . except for one.

The one had jammed my controls.

My trust fighter would only fly in a straight line (over and into German controlled territory). I could speed up and slow down (throttle control), but could not turn left or right or climb or dive. While the German Recon plane was a lot slower than my plane, the escort was not. In very short order he was on my tail.

I had a 33% chance on any given turn to free my controls. For six die rolls in row I rolled a three or greater as the German pilot slowly shot my plane to pieces until it fell from the sky.

The "Golden BB" had removed the "Ace of Aces" from the skies over the trenches.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Many people do not know that you can play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of STAR FLEET BATTLES with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then.

This successful operation has now been expanded to include FEDERATION COMMANDER!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $4 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the FEDERATION COMMANDER game system as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the problems we deal with in an open society is that it is far too easy for the media to tell us what is wrong with ourselves, and reinforce the image of failure, than it is for the media to give us an idea of what our opposition is dealing with.

Thus the media can easily find a U.S. soldier to interview for his opinions of how things are going.

But the media cannot find an Afghan insurgent who can tell them about the horror of seeing the other 15 members of his Taliban raiding force that were killed by the Apache gunship, or the Saudi National who answered the call to Jihad only to find himself lobbing bombs into market stalls to kill fellow Muslims because it was too difficult to attack the Americans.

The result is that the U.S. Media looks for "bad news", because "bad news sells". It has no interest in positive stories because those do not sell. So the news that generally does make it to the TV screens or the front page of the newspapers out of Iraq and Afghanistan is almost universally bad. You can go weeks at a time without a headline from those areas, but let there be something that can be seen as a negative and it will not only be on the front page but above the fold. The result is that every time you hear about Iraq or Afghanistan the association you will be making is "bad news", and bad news means defeat.

The converse is that for the Taliban and Al Qaida, what we get is their propaganda line. They do not send interviews to Al Jazeera (at which point it will be picked up by Western News Outlets) about Taliban Leader X deciding to go over to the government, or that Al Qaida Leader Y's attempt to take over a village ended with half the men he took with him killed, wounded, or captured. Al Qaida and the Taliban largely get to trumpet success. And since the media repeats their claims usually without any "due diligence" this increases the image of failure in Western thought processes in the war on terror.

To a great extent the West relies on a free press to keep it informed, but this reliance depends on that press to create an honest image of what is going on. Truth to tell, the press has never been honest (you can review the way the print media in the last two centuries largely defamed the politicians of the opposing party depending on the editor's own political leanings for example). By its insular nature, belief in its own infallibility in how it reports the news, and the short-sighted nature of its reporting, our modern media does a dis-service to all of us that will be paid for by future generations.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Background Consistency

This is Steven Petrick posting.

First, I am sorry that there was no post yesterday (31 March 08). I was ill Sunday (30 March 08) and wound up going home early yesterday as I was still drained from the experience (which I will NOT be going into any detail on, thank you very much).

I have been reading a new series called "the lost fleet". So far there are three books in the series. I will probably get the next book in the series because I have an interest in the "command problems" the main character is having, but for the most part find myself not impressed with the books, despite the high praise lavished on them by other authors. The reason I am not impressed in that I keep running into inconsistencies in the background, situations where, in my opinion, one plus one does not equal two.

To take the most egregious case, the hero's fleet has a ball and chain attached to it in the form of four auxiliary support ships. These four ships are vital to the fleet logistics (I have no problem with that concept), but are slower and not as maneuverable as the rest of the ships of the fleet. The problem comes in that sometimes the author needs them to be slower and less maneuverable to create a plot circumstance that the hero must solve, and other times they are apparently as fast and as maneuverable as any ship in his fleet, i.e., the author seems to forget that these ships are slower and less maneuverable.

They cannot be both, they must be one or the other. The fact that at times the author ignores this background point seriously detracts from the story he is telling (in MY opinion, you are invited to form your own).

As I have said, I will probably pick up the next book in the series, but the author's writing skill and ability to be consistent are not that high in terms of the overall background.